All Articles Leadership Inspiration Creating a pocket of excellence when you aren't the CEO

Creating a pocket of excellence when you aren’t the CEO

4 min read


I’ve been speaking, coaching, and writing about how leaders can build high-performing, values-aligned cultures for over 25 years.

My proven framework helps leaders create an organizational constitution and then align all plans, decisions, and actions to it.

Your organizational constitution formalizes expectations in four vital areas:

  • Purpose (your company’s present day “reason for being,” besides making money)
  • Values and behaviors (what great citizens look, act, and sound like)
  • Strategies
  • Goals.

When leaders and team members all embrace these expectations, engagement and service go up (both by 40% or more) plus results and profits go up (by 35% or more), all within 18 months of starting the culture refinement.

This process works wonders.

And, I’m asked this question all the time: “What if I’m not the CEO of my organization? Can I change the culture of just my team — even when it exists in an organization with a lousy culture?”

Certainly. You can work entirely within your “sphere of influence,” which may include a plant, a division, a department or your own functional team.

Many of the clients I’ve worked with over the past 25 years have been smaller, distinct units of their broader organization. They were plants, divisions, departments and teams.

The leaders of those units realized the culture of their unit did not enhance their team’s performance nor did it inspire team members to bring their best, do their best, or treat others with respect, consistently.

A catalog-printing plant came to our process because they scored so low on their company’s employee-engagement survey. Production had fallen off by more than 20%. The president of the plant was told, “Fix it,” but he wasn’t told how to fix it.

A large retailer came to us because the new senior vice president wasn’t getting the quick traction he wanted on his vision, which was “People with passion drive performance!”

One client implemented our process with his functional team. He had no budget, but he did have time and he had an understanding of our best practices. Crafting his small team’s organizational constitution was “below the radar,” not visible to the rest of his division or the larger organization around him.

This leader simply brought his team along on the constitution journey.

Every one of these units was a part of a larger organization or parent company. In most cases, the larger organization thought the culture work they were doing was unnecessary. “How much money are you spending on this culture thing?” these unit leaders were asked. “Why are you wasting your time on culture? You won’t see any benefit,” they were told.

When tangible benefits such as 35% gains in results and profits plus 40% gains in service ratings and in employee engagement are realized, the questions seem to go away.

Such pockets of excellence are a delight to behold. We’ve all seen them in our organizations. We observe their success, their unique teamwork, and think, “I wonder why that team is doing so well — and having so much fun? What is their leader doing to create that?”

Then we go about our business, not giving it another thought. We don’t stop and pursue how these “pockets of excellence” operate.

You can create a pocket of excellence, starting now. You can craft a team (or department or division or company) culture that inspires high performance and exceptional, respectful teamwork. You can build a team that loves its work, its customers and its team members.

Whether you are doing culture refinement with a large or small team, you must embrace the role of proactive culture champion. You must invest time and energy in the communication, coaching and celebration of traction towards your desired culture.

Your organizational constitution defines exactly how you want people on your team to behave — with peers, with each other, and with customers.

By aligning all plans, decisions, and actions to your constitution, you’ll create a high-performing, values-aligned team that operates beautifully in its pocket of excellence.

There’s no time like the present.

Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter. Subscribers enjoy free resources and webinars including a preview of my latest book, The Culture Engine, which helps leaders grow their business as well as boost engagement and service with an organizational constitution.

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